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3 Pros and Cons of student exchange in Korea

I did my 2016 Summer Abroad; an exchange programme in Korea, under Hanyang University where I had a blast of time. But truly, what does it feels like to stay in Korea for two months? How is student exchange like? In this article, I will share more about the programme and living in Korea.

Pros
pros

1. Learning Exposure

The two modules that I took in this programme were Understanding a Visual Language in Film and Other Media and Photo and Video Journalism.

In Visual Language, each week we would watch different genre of movies i.e. Film Noir, Step-Printing, Classical Hollywood, etc, followed by group discussions where we share different viewpoints and interpretation of the film with each other. We also had the privilege to visit the MBC broadcasting station to see how shows were run in Korea. Our assignments included creating our own pictorial story using only visual elements and film analysis.

In Photo and Video Journalism, our lecturer brought us on field trips at least twice a week to gather images and clips. Some of the places we visited were the Suicide Bridge, Namsan Tower, Insadong, etc. It is often exciting when you managed to capture a moment on the street and learnt how to create multiple stories using the same information but through different framing.  Our assignment was a presentation of our own blog post, photos and a YouTube journalist video.

Every lesson was engaging and I absolutely love the out-of-classroom teaching styles. It allows us to have a more hands-on and real world experience. Everyone was given equal and ample opportunities and I enjoyed listening to our lecturers’ sharing of their personal industry experience. However, I have to say that interest plays a big role in this; “do what you love and you will love what you do”.

 

Photo credits: Hanyang University
Photo credits: Hanyang University

2. Making friends across the globe

Being in a global exchange programme, you get to meet different people from across the world. The Summer Abroad Programme in Hanyang University is open to students all over the globe. You meet and work with people from the United States, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Kazakhstan, etc. You get to learn so many cultures all in that one period. Needless to say how nice it would be, to know a familiar face when you visit others parts of the world in the future, and the joy of travelling abroad for a reunion!
Making friends across the globe

3. Never-ending Activities and Sight Seeing

I spent around 2 months in Korea and it is definitely still not enough. There are tons of places to go and things to do in Seoul; you will never be bored of the country. From street shopping, to Noraebang, palace hopping, café hopping, road trips to different villages, hiking and I could just go on and on and on! The good thing about going to Korea in July is, you are just in time to join in all the summer festivals such as the annual Sinchon Water Gun Festival, Boryeong Mud Festival, Pohang International Fireworks Festival and Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival!

You might be thinking, “So many festivals to attend, won’t my pocket be burnt?” Do not worry! Tickets for the Sinchon Water Gun Festival can be as low as 9,500 KRW, which amounts to around SGD $12. Pohang International Fireworks Festival is free! All you need to do is just head over to Yeongildae Beach at Pohang to enjoy the spectacular show. The Bucheon International Fantasic Film Festival is a two-week event, where all the different film genre will be screened. Opening and closing ceremony tickets are priced at 10,000 KRW, which amounts to around SGD $13 and general screenings are priced at 6,000 KRW per film, which amounts to around SGD $8.  For more information, you can visit their website at: https://www.bifan.kr/eng/ticket/03_ticket_2.asp

And for all students under Hanyang University, you get to attend the Boryeong Mud Festival for free, courtesy of the school! You do not need to worry about transportation because the school will bring you there and back. On top of that, Hanyang students can opt to visit either Everland or Carribean Bay! And yes, tickets are also complimentary by the school! How awesome is that!

Cons

1. Overpopulated by Singaporeans

Korea is a very popular choice among Singaporeans that at one point, it didn’t seem like I was studying abroad. Yes, I know I said you get to work with people from different countries earlier on. However, it really depends on the modules you take and the class you are in. I had two extreme situations.

In my Film class, there were 18 students and only 2 of us were from Singapore. In my Photo and Video Journalism class, on the other hand, 36 out of the 38 students were Singaporeans. I remembered clearly on our first lesson, we were asked to describe pictorially the country that we came from. It was amusing as many of us at the end of the line were struggling to find something innovative to say. You will definitely bump into a lot of Singaporeans along the popular streets of Seoul. “Spot the flip-flops!” as my friend would say. On a positive note, I guess you will not feel too far away from home.

 

Photo Credits: Hanyang University
Photo Credits: Hanyang University

2. Culture Shock

I hope fans of Korea will not throw eggs at me after this, but in my opinion, what you see in Korea dramas is very different in real life when you stay there long enough. Yes, we all know Korea is quite a male chauvinistic country, but there is a stark difference in treatment when you travel in an all-girls clique, and when there are males in your group.

When entering a more traditional restaurant in Korea, the ajummas serving tend to speak a lot more roughly to you as compared to when there are guys around. Do not speak too loudly in the trains as well, because chances are, you will get yelled at by the ajummas or ajusshis (especially if you are speaking in Chinese). Do not be shock if you get shoved and pushed hard in their trains as well, especially during rush hours.

Of course, Korea is not all that bad. We have met nice and hospitable Koreans and ajummas that looked out for us like their daughters at different events as well. No country is entirely perfect and it is all part of the travelling experience.
culture shock

3. Weather

If you think Singapore is hot, well, Korea is going to be a lot worse during the summer as temperature can rise up to 35°C. Regardless of gender, you should put on some sun block before stepping out because you can literally feel the sun stinging on your skin. What makes it more unbearable is, unlike Singapore, many areas in Seoul are not sheltered and there are many slopes and hills to climb. Be prepared to sweat a lot! Most of the time you will be out on the streets instead of shopping malls because that is where all the good food and good buys are! There is also no air-conditioning at the train stations because of environmental and electrical conservation. It is only after this exchange I learnt to appreciate Singapore much more.

 

school of business

No matter the good and bad, it is all part of the journey and I did enjoy myself during my time in Korea. Now that I am more aware about place, season and culture of Seoul, I know what to expect the next time I go back! I hope this article helped you to know what to expect of an exchange life in Korea from a Singaporean’s point of view!

You can read my previous article, Seoul What, Seoul Why, where I shared my reason for choosing Seoul and all the application details.

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Janessa Kong
"I am a graduate from the University of Birmingham in Business Management with Communication. I live to travel and documenting snippets of life/ videography is my passion. My hobby is running and food is my best friend. Everyday I tell myself to do what makes you happy, even if it is against the norms, because that is what you are meant for; to grow in places that people thought you never would."